Is Trauma the Cause of Anxiety and Depression?
Trauma is at the top of the list of most-common psychological health conditions. The word trauma has become part of our everyday language. On the news, we often hear about people being traumatized by tragic events, shootings, natural disasters, and accidents, just to mention a few.
Life doesn’t prepare us for trauma. Following exposure to traumatic events, millions of people develop anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Without treatment, those millions will battle distressing symptoms for life.
Depression and anxiety are two of the most debilitating mental health illnesses of our times and are part of the biggest epidemics of our modern society.
What is trauma and its effects?
Trauma results from exposure to any adverse event or series of events that are emotionally disturbing or life-threatening with lasting negative effects on the individual’s functioning: mental, physical, social, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Other adverse life experiences that are not always perceived as traumatic accumulate over time and have a lasting negative impact on our self-esteem and self-worth. Immediately after the event, shock, and denial are typical. Longer-term reactions include flashbacks, sleep disturbances, nightmares, intense fear and sadness, and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea.
Trauma affects our system of beliefs, destroying our convictions about ourselves in relationships with others and the world. It destroys our identity leading us to suffer due to sadness and fear and perpetuating continuous states of anxiety and depression. Some examples of these negative beliefs are thoughts like I am not safe, I am not lovable, I am not good enough, I am a failure, I don’t belong, I am trapped, etc.
Many feelings experienced after a traumatic event are a normal part of grieving and recovering. Still, when these feelings go on for a long time (more than a few weeks), they can get in the way of your daily life and may lead to depression or anxiety.
How Are Depression and Anxiety Trauma Related?
Trauma impacts the brain, the body, emotion regulation, and relationship-building ability. The most common cause of anxiety and depression is trauma. Trauma activates a response characterized by anxiety that causes intense sadness and leads to depression, leaving us broken, shattered, and wounded.
Trauma can create feelings of sadness, fear, and anger. The emotions can feel overwhelming and out of control, and we struggle to find a balance. Anxiety is the primary mechanism of defense. It is the key to survival and maintains our internal emotional balance.
Trauma causes extreme levels of anxiety and fear that have a terrible effect on our ability to function. When we are in such a state, we experience a horrible reality, and even when we consciously know that there is no threat at that moment, our mind doesn't let us see clearly what is real and what is not. The traumatic event can get stuck in the memory network in its original form, causing symptoms like anxiety and depression.
The depressive and anxiety cases caused by trauma usually are chronic and severe. The feelings of anxiety and panic interfere with daily activities, are difficult to control, are out of proportion to the actual danger, and can last for a long time.
So how can we heal the traumatized mind and heart?
There are different types of therapy to treat trauma:
Cognitive processing therapy (CPT)
Prolonged exposure therapy
We all experience some bad things from time to time, but the brain's natural ability allows us to process it and move forward. If the memory of the traumatic event is not processed correctly in our system, the emotions we experience are not very likely to disappear and will come back to haunt us.
There is hope with proper treatment, and it is never too late to start again. However, healing takes time, and we get better when we recover our sense of safety by reprocessing those traumatic experiences and learning to regulate our emotions.
Therapy can help you heal from traumatic experiences. Talking with a therapist who specializes in trauma/PTSD can help you undo the damage caused by trauma. The goal of counseling is to help you move from living in a state of survival to starting to live well. The ultimate goal is to achieve personal transformation to develop ourselves into our full potential.
If you’re ready to heal from past trauma and overcome struggles such as PTSD, anxiety, depression, counseling can help! I invite you to contact me for your complimentary consultation at 954-391-5305.
I provide talk therapy, EMDR therapy, and hypnotherapy for adults at our beautiful office in Plantation, Florida. I also offer online counseling for those who reside in the state of Florida via our secure telehealth platform. For more information about my approach to therapy, click here.
I look forward to helping you live your best life!